Men’s basketball tunes up for regular season

By Steve Shonder

Men’s basketball is going through its final rehearsal before the regular season gets underway.

The Huskies will host the Roosevelt Lakers 5 p.m. Saturday at the Convocation Center for an exhibition matchup. The last time the teams met, the Huskies blew out the Lakers, 72-46, Jan. 2, 2012, for head coach Mark Montgomery’s first career win.

With several starting spots still up in the air, the coaching staff will use the game to evaluate its players in game situations. Junior Travon Baker is battling redshirt sophomore Michael Orris for the starting point guard job, while senior Aaron Armstead and redshirt senior Anthony Johnson are battling for the two-guard spot.

“I’m going to work everyone in, especially [in] the first half,” Montgomery said. “We kind of platoon subs. We’ll have five in, five out, make sure everyone gets a chance to play. I’m still evaluating each player, so the more time I can see them in game mode it only helps me, it only helps the staff. Everyone will play just about equal minutes in this exhibition game.”

The Lakers have two regular season games under their belt, and they have a solid core of seniors they’ve built their offense around. Injuries have derailed their past few seasons.

The Huskies will look to improve on their offensive output. Last season, the Huskies had the worst scoring offense in the MAC, averaging only 62.2 points per game. This year, NIU wants to use an up-tempo game plan and work the ball inside, taking advantage of its solid front court players.

“It’s been tough, but it’s been good,” Orris said. Montgomery “really emphasizes us pushing the ball and going up and down the floor. It’s tiring, but it’s the way we want to play. It’s the way he wants to play. We’ve got the players to do it. It’s getting there.”

After all the preseason work, Armstead said there’s been a lot of buildup for the season to start.

“I’m definitely excited,” Armstead said. “We’ve been waiting for this season for a long time. Going into my senior year, I’m just ready to get it started.

“Offensively, we’re looking good. We’re moving the ball around a lot more and guys are making shots, just being more aggressive overall and more consistent.”